The passage of the Clay Hunt SAV Act casts an important national spotlight to veteran’s mental health issues and access to care. It can take someone a long time, years even, to work up the courage to seek help, and for many veterans the only place they know to turn is to the VA. The VA can be a wonderful mental health resource, but it can also take time to get an appointment, it may be geographically distant, the quality of care can be spotty, and many veterans have a general feeling of mistrust of the institution. Many veterans we talk to have visited a psychiatrist at the VA and know about medication that can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, but we are often surprised to hear that so many do not know that weekly psychotherapy in conjunction with those meds has been proven to offer the best treatment. Veterans also often don’t know how to access that treatment, which is where the SAV Act comes in. This piece of legislation will increase access by providing more thorough information about places to get treatment and a network of peers to help get veterans there.
At RRRP we’ve been doing this for two years: digging in to find free and low cost mental health resources for veterans who prefer an alternative to the VA. Referrals to mental health services consistently comes up in our top 5 focus areas. We have found trusted partners who provide high-quality care through Soldiers Project, which is a network of therapists who offer pro bono therapy to veterans, and through local Vet Centers across the country. Vet Centers are affiliated with the VA but operate somewhat separately and provide a very high level of treatment. In addition to this RRRP has developed relationships with organizations that provide inpatient treatment for PTSD and for substance abuse issues, and we work closely with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center to get care for veterans struggling with TBI. We have also met with Talk Space, an organization that provides low-cost online therapy, as an option for veterans who feel more comfortable engaging in this way. All of this hard work by our team of Veteran Transition Managers lowered the reported stress levels of veterans by almost one point last week.
We are committed to connecting the veterans who contact us with high levels of mental health treatment, and we look forward to SAV being enacted to help us with this work. Here is how one client put it: “Thank you Gerard. I’ve made an appointment with the Vet Center for Friday, I appreciate all your care and understanding. You may just have saved my life man.”